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  • Māori Issues
  • Margaret Mutu (bio)

In a year when tensions between Māori and the government were increasing, hosting the Rugby World Cup was a welcome albeit temporary distraction. Despite a strong Māori presence at the opening and on the New Zealand All Blacks team, displays of racism marred the event on more than one occasion. This very [End Page 165] destructive characteristic of New Zealand society is becoming more pronounced as Māori success is being perceived by some as a threat to the white supremacy that has thrived in New Zealand for over a century and a half. It surfaced on several occasions during the year, most notably in Pākehā (European) media, in some court decisions, in industrial disputes, in Treaty of Waitangi "settlements," in government policy, and in the actions of several government agencies. In the November general election, the most telling result was the very low Māori voter turnout of 49 percent (New Zealand Parliament 2011). The Māori Party lost a member of Parliament, reducing its numbers to three, but once again they joined the National Party-led coalition government. The new Mana Party has only one member in the House, with the remaining three Māori seats going to the Labour Party (Electoral Commission 2011). During the year, the government pushed through "settlements" of five iwi (tribal groupings), which legally extinguished their treaty claims. A further four have had similar "settlement" legislation pending in Parliament (OTS 2012). As a result of the Crown's relentless drive to extinguish all historical claims, the Waitangi Tribunal has been inundated with claims opposing the so-called settlements, to the point that it has had to put other work on hold (Waitangi Tribunal 2012).

The Rugby World Cup riveted the nation for two months. The opening ceremony was dominated in spectacular fashion by the Māori face of the country, and twenty traditional waka (war canoes)—one for each nation represented—were out in force on the Waitematā Harbour in Auckland. Māori appreciated the chairman of the International Rugby Board, Frenchman Bernard Lapasset, speaking Mā as he opened the tournament, even if it did highlight the fact that Prime Minister John Key chose to ignore the Māori foundation of the nation when he spoke. The country was euphoric when the All Blacks eventually won the World Cup, narrowly beating the French in a nailbiting final. There were eight Māori on the thirty-man team. Piri Weepu was named Man of the Match in the quarterfinals against Argentina, and Israel Dagg was named one of the five players of the tournament.

It was therefore disappointing that the racist underbelly of New Zealand society was in evidence against Māori and out Pacific cousing during the tournament. Members of one of the waka crews, including young women, were physically and verbally attacked when they came ashore on the overcrowded Auckland waterfront during the opening ceremony; several required hospital treatment. Meanwhile the Tongan, Samoan, and Fijian teams felt particularly disadvantaged with a draw that treated them unfairly by having only short times between their games while the opposition had a week. Then there were the International Rugby Board rules, which prevented a number of outstanding Tongan, Samoan, and Fijian players from playing for their own countries (Taonui 2011). Biased refereeing against these Pacific Island teams is common, and when the Samoan center angrily pointed out the racism of a Welsh referee and refused to back down, he was suspended. [End Page 166]

Nowhere is racism more clearly evidenced than in Pākehā-controlled media. Totally unacceptable socioeconomic statistics for Māori (McIntosh and Mulholland 2012) are often quoted with no analysis or history of the causes provided. Yet the successes of an increasing number of Māori and Māori organizations in areas that were traditionally the preserve of Pākehā are rarely mentioned. Positive reports about Māori rising to the top of professions and about Māori organizations established to look after the economic well-being of their hapū (group of extended families) and iwi (group of hapū) making substantial gains are gully covered by Māori news media. Yet if P...


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pp. 165-172
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